The Fremonts – Alligator | Album Review

thefreemontscdThe Fremonts – Alligator

Truax Records – 2016

15 tracks; 50 minutes

The Fremonts hail from San Diego and this is their fourth album release. The band adopts a mono recording approach which gives a real vintage feel that recalls Chess, Vee-Jay and particularly Excello records of yesteryear. The material here is mainly covers though there are three originals included. The band is Mighty Joe Milsap on vocals, Patrick Skog and Tony Tomlinson on guitars, Troy Sandow on bass and Alan West on drums though most members of the band also play additional instruments. A number of guests are featured including Bob Corritore and Ben Hernandez on harp, Matthew Thomas on piano, Sharifah Muhammad on backing vocals and Johnny Viau on sax.

The three originals include the instrumental “Blues Hungover” on which bassist Troy plays some tough harp, the catchy “Swinging Ten Pounds” which lyrically recalls other songs about laying railroad tracks such as “John Henry” and a lovely ballad “Have Some Faith” which benefits from Sharifah’s B/V’s and some gentle picking from the guitarists. Mighty Joe has an unusual voice, deep and resonant, that takes a little getting used to but repays patience as it does grow on you. “Have Some Faith” is particularly well done and a standout track.

There are two songs each from the repertoires of Fats Domino and Frank Frost: “I’m Ready” and “My Girl Josephine” are familiar songs and are well done by The Fremonts, both fairly lo-fi with a ‘muddy’ rhythm track aided by handclaps; “Jelly Roll King” has some excellent harmonica from Ben Hernandez and booming vocals from Joe while “My Back Scratcher” sounds like a close relative of “Scratch My Back” and has the sort of Excello/swamp feel associated with Lazy Lester and Slim Harpo. More Excello style music appears with Silas Hogan’s “Everybody Needs Somebody” on which Bob Corritore plays some great harp, at times sounding like a wheezing accordion, and on Charles Sheffield’s “It’s Your Voodoo Working” which has appropriately ringing guitars and Johnny Viau’s sax to the fore.

The band also does a fine version of Brook Benton’s “I’ll Take Care Of You” which has some excellent guitar work and heads up to Memphis for re-workings of Rufus Thomas’ “Can’t Ever Let You Go” and the soulful “It’s Easy When You Know How” which again features Johnny’s sax, as does the very different cover of Bill Withers’ “Who Is He And What Is He To You” which opens with bird noise before moving into a threatening mood with the sax and Joe’s vocal sitting on top of some interesting percussion. RL Burnside’s “Going Down South” closes the album in minimalist style.

This was an album that grew on me as I listened to it a few times. It may well do the same with other Blues Blast readers.

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